Governor Newsom Will Sign SB 253, SB 261, Advancing the Climate Accountability Bill Package

NEW YORK** |  On September 17, 2023, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced his intention to sign Senate Bills 253 and 261, groundbreaking climate legislation, advancing the suite of bills announced jointly in January as the Climate Accountability Bill Package. Senate Bill 252, the third bill in the package, now a two-year bill, is poised to clear the Assembly in 2024.

Confirmed to be Signed: Senate Bill 253

The Climate Corporate Leadership and Accountability Act would require all large U.S.-based corporations doing business in California that make over $1 billion annually to publicly disclose their full carbon footprint in a way that is easily understandable and available to the public. Specifically, SB 253 requires disclosure by US companies doing business in California that have revenues of one billion dollars or more to annually report their complete greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions — scopes 1, 2 and 3 — to a non-profit emissions registry contracted by the California Air Resources Board (CARB). Companies that already disclose their emissions include Campbell’s, Kellogg’s, Nestle, Kraft-Heinz, CocaCola, General Mills, Anheuser-Busch, and Mars Candy. Supported by companies including IKEA, Patagonia, Sierra Nevada, and Everlane – and with tech industry endorsements from Apple, Microsoft, Salesforce, and Google – the passage of SB 253 shows that successful companies understand that GHG emissions data is fundamental for understanding a company’s financial position in the face of the net zero transition. Moreover, corporate emissions disclosures provide companies, policymakers, investors, and consumers with consistent and comparable data to guide their decision-making across the market. SB 253 is co-sponsored by California Environmental Voters, Carbon Accountable, CERES, The Greenlining Institute, and Sunrise Bay Area, with many other organizations joining in support.

Confirmed to be Signed: Senate Bill 261

The climate crisis poses financial and material risk to companies and investors, systemic risks to financial markets, and requires urgent action by financial market stakeholders. The Climate-Related Risk Disclosure Act (SB 261) would require US companies doing business in California that have revenues of $500 million or more to annually prepare and submit a climate-related financial risk report to the state. SB 261 would set a gold standard for climate-related risk disclosures. This bill would require corporations, partnerships, limited liability companies, or other business entities incorporated in California to report on climate-related financial risk. Informed and smart decision-making is hampered by inadequate disclosure. Standardized, reliable, and mandatory climate risk disclosure will provide robust and actionable information, enabling informed decision making on the climate crisis’s systemic impacts on California’s economy and capital markets.

Up next: Senate Bill 252

Introduced by Senator Lena Gonzalez with joint authors Wiener, and Stern, Senate Bill 252 (SB 252), would require California’s public pensions –CalPERS and CalSTRS, the largest pension funds in the U.S. – to divest from fossil fuel companies by 2031 (with an additional 5-year off-ramp should the funds encounter specified market conditions). SB 252 has already demonstrated tremendous momentum, clearing three Senate committees and a full Senate floor vote, while also picking up endorsements up and down the state: from the County of Humboldt, to Oakland City Attorney, Barbara J. Parker and the City of Oakland, to State Treasurer Fiona Ma, to the Los Angeles Times Editorial Board. With California becoming the world’s fifth largest economy, the state is poised to lead the financial sector into a new era of financial prudence and risk-managed growth by removing toxic and volatile fossil fuel holdings from CalPERS and CalSTRS. A two-year bill, SB 252 next goes before the Assembly Public Employment and Retirement Committee in 2024. The bill is co-sponsored by California Faculty Association (SEIU Local 1983) and Fossil Free California.

Statement from Mary Creasman, Chief Executive Officer, California Environmental Voters, on Senate Bill 253:

“The Assembly Speaker and the Senate President and their houses have shown true leadership in this moment ensuring California doesn’t take a step backwards in the fight for our future. This bill will have global impacts in our fight to reduce pollution and the connected catastrophic impacts like extreme heat, fires, flooding, and drought. We are closer than ever to making it a reality that our largest corporations (who are responsible for 71% of global emissions) will have to measure and publicly disclose their pollution through all scopes of business.

Statement from Miriam Eide, Director, Fossil Free California, on Senate Bill 252 and the Climate Accountability Bill Package:

“Governor Newsom signing two-thirds of the Climate Accountability Package into law shows that California is ready to lead on climate finance. We can meet the challenge before us. As Californians mop up from an unprecedented summer hurricane, after a winter marked by over $30 billion in flood damage, following year after year of wildfires tearing through communities left with loss of life, jobs, and places to live, we can’t afford to wait. We need climate-stabilization measures now. With the unprecedented momentum we saw in 2023 to advance SB 252, to hold CalPERS and CalSTRS to their fiduciary duty and divest California’s public pensions of fossil fuel investments, we expect full passage of Senate Bill 252 in 2024.”

Statement from Senator Scott Wiener, author of Senate Bill 253:

When business leaders, investors, consumers, and analysts have full visibility into large corporations’ carbon emissions, they have the tools and incentives to turbocharge their decarbonization efforts.”

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**New York is the ancestral home and unceded lands of the Munsee Lenape People. Fossil Free California is headquartered in the ancestral lands of the Ohlone, Muwekma, Chochenyo and Lisjan peoples, in Oakland, California. We invite you to advance Indigenous leadership by supporting Sogorea Te Land Trust, Indigenous Environmental Network, and Indigenous Climate Action.

Photo by Gage Skidmore, CC BY-SA 2.0